The advent of social media has definitely changed the way businesses interact online. Creating an online brand image and building social communication channels have become indispensable for businesses big and small. Beyond their communicative dimension, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Google+ can be real growth engines for your brand.
To successfully build a winning social media marketing strategy, it is important to understand the core elements that will define the project’s course of action. In this context, social media strategists and community managers rely on 8 key rules that are important to follow to successfully develop a dynamic, positive and ultimately, profitable presence. This article will provide you with simple tips that will help you develop, refine and maximize your social media strategy.
1. Identify What You Want To Accomplish
The very first step you have to go through when designing your marketing strategy for social media is to identify your business objectives. You want to make sure that your social media strategy supports your business goals. For example:
- Generate new leads and increase revenue
- Increase brand recognition and awareness
- Build customer loyalty
- Grow traffic to your website
- Get more appointments or sales meetings
Once you do that, you want to go further and set S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), that way you will be able to properly track your progress in meeting your objectives:
- Specific: Describe your objectives specific to the results you want so you can easily measure your strategy’s performance. (e.g. attract 15 new leads from Linkedin every month).
- Measurable: Your activity on social media should be measurable to see if you are making progress and evaluate your success. For example: the number of likes or followers, or number of clicks on links.
- Attainable: Increasing your sales by 1000% overnight using social media only is probably not something you should aim for. Make sure you set goals that you feel you have a reasonable chance to achieve.
- Realistic: Make sure your resources allow you to meet your objectives (i.e. time, money, staff).
- Time-based: incorporate a specific time frame when setting your goals. For example: 1,000 new followers on your Linkedin page within the next six months.
2. Figure Out Where Your Customers Are
Knowing which social media outlets your customers use is integral to the success of your social media staretgy. As a small business owner, you probably know the obvious characteristics of your audience and their demographics. Once you’ve nailed down the basic information about your target market, you need to need to determine the social networks they are using, this way you will be able to reach them and receive great user-engagement.
We have built whole section with interactive charts that focuses on the demographics of the different social media websites, including usage by age group, gender, income and other factors. You can find it here.
The chart above shows you the main social networks and the percentage of online adults in the United States that use them. It comes as no surprise that the great majority uses Facebook; however, you will notice that Pinterest is much more popular with women than men. So if your small business caters mainly to women, Pinterest is a great place to reach them with tailored messages.
3. Focus on networks that are effective for your business
Many marketers believe that if you really want to make an impact on social media “You should be everywhere”. However, managing 10 or 12 social media accounts is simply not manageable unless you have a team of people helping you with that. And in fact, it is highly unlikely that your target audience is really using that many social networks.
There are hundreds of social networks and new ones keep popping up all the time. However, only a few of them really matter and as you will soon realize, only a handful can really help you generate growth for your business.
As such, your social media strategy will be much more effective (and also more manageable) if you choose to focus on the dominant social networks like Facebook or Twitter (or even Linkedin if you’re in B2B) and be present at a few sites and blogs directly related to your industry / niche market. If you want to find out more about which social networks small businesses use and how they rate them (among other things), you can find our regularly updated charts here.
4. Post Content on a Regular Basis
To stay relevant in today’s digital market, it is important to maintain your online and social media presence in order. There is nothing worse for your image on social media than posting content on an irregular basis, so if your Linkedin page or your Facebook feed appear dormant or inactive, users (and potential customers) will be under the impression that your content and your company are outdated.
Be active at least once a week to keep the attention of your readers / customers. This frequent activity will have a double benefit: On one hand it allows you to keep the attention of existing customers, on the other hand, it also helps you attract and retain new prospects.
5. The content must be of value
While you should post content regularly, you want to make your content count by ensuring that you are delivering quality content that has the ability to break through the clutter and grab your audience’s attention. Keep in mind that on the Internet, readers are very busy and drowning in information, as such, your content should not be perceived as banal if you want your visitors to come back frequently.
Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.Steve Jobs
Using compelling visual content such as eye-catching images or videos can be an excellent way to showcase your business and website to potential customers. In fact, research has shown that followers are 44% more likely to engage in social media posts that contain pictures.
Another way to increase the quality of your content is to create and communicate valuable information and resources for your target audience. Sharing insights and ideas with potential buyers will position you and your business as experts in the industry, making you gain credibility and trust, which will ultimately, attract potential customers.
In short, people will value what you say a lot more if you show how much you care about your content, which increase your lieklihood of getting more quality followers.
6. Timing is everything
Now that we covered that “What”, “Where” and “How Often” you should post in social media, let’s go over a factor that is just as important but widely overlooked by small business owners: “When to post on social media?”.
If you want to make the most of your posts, maximize your exposure and reach, you need to know the time of day when people are most receptive to posts. However, the right time to post varies across the different social platform as each one has its own optimal time.
As the chart above shows, here are the best time to share across the most popular social network:
- Facebook : Early afternoon (1pm to 4pm)
- Twitter : Early afternoon (1pm to 3pm)
- Linkedin : Early morning (7am to 9am) and again in late afternoon (5pm to 6pm)
- Google+ : Mid-morning (9am to 11am)
- Pinterest : Late evening (8pm to 11pm)
- Instagram : Late afternoon (5pm to 6pm)
- Tumblr : Evening (7pm to 10pm)
Posting at the times mentioned above should give you a higher chance of reaching your followers. However, we recommend that you experimente at other times as well since timing may be different for your client base or industry.
7. Interact with your followers
While Social Media is a great way for you to reach your business’s target market, keep in mind that it is also a way for them to reach you. It is a two-way street: you are not there to simply post content or broadcast announcements that tend to be top-down, one-way communications. More often than not, what you can receive in return for engaging with your fans is even more important that what you put out there.
- Interact with your followers: You want to engage with those who post on your social media pages and interact with them. This means when someone posts something, you need to let them know you are reading what they are posting by responding to them in a timely fashion.
- Promote dialogue: Ask your followers for their opinion, and also encourage them to ask questions. Your followers will appreciate the fact that they are heard and that you value their opinions. In addition, their thoughts and suggestions can provide valuable insight that you can incorporate into strategic business decisions.
- Turn criticism around to your advantage: If you do end up with a complaint from someone through Facebook or Twitter for example, you need to tackle it fast and efficiently. This will prove your small business’ professionalism and dedication to customer service.
8. Track and analyze your results
Tracking the user-engagement with your posts (including how many times they were opened, read or shared) allows you to determine which which content is most engaging and valuable to your users. It also provides you with valuable insight that allows you to decide whether the resources and time you have been devoting to your social media presence are worth it and whether improvement or mid-course corrections are needed.
These are examples of tracking tools that are available to you on the most popular social networks:
- Facebook: Facebook Insights shows provides information on number of Likes, number of monthly active users, and daily likes. It also provides information on your follows, including demographics by age, region, and gender.
- Twitter: Twitter Analytics gives you information on Tweet activity such as Mentions, Retweets, link clicks and number of impressions.
- Linkedin: Analytics Tab provides updated information on impressions, clicks, interactions, engagement, and followers acquired. If you a running sponsored campaigns, you can also track how they are doing.
With all that in mind, all your efforts to promote your business on the social media sphere are meaningless unless they support a path to conversion and positively impact the bottom line. As such, you should to measure and track the following:
- Which social channel drives the most inbound referral traffic to you site.
- How users from different social sources engage with your site.
- Actual goal conversions from social referral sources that contribute to your business’s bottom line.
While this might sounds like it might require an expensive solution, it actually is absolutely free using Google Analytics, a powerful tool that allows you to track all the above and more. Using it efficiently will put you in a position to make better, more efficient data-driven decisions in your social media marketing programs.